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Malini Ranganathan Assoc Professor School of International Service

Send email to Malini Ranganathan
SIS - School of International Service
SIS - 301
Office hours by appointment only.
Additional Positions at AU
Faculty Advisor and Affiliate, Antiracist Research and Policy Center
Faculty Fellow at the Metropolitan Policy Center, School of Public Affairs
Faculty Affiliate, Department of Critical Race, Gender, and Culture Studies
PhD, University of California, Berkeley

Book Currently Reading
Khal Torabully's "Cargohold of Stars: Coolitude"

Malini Ranganathan is Associate Professor in the School of International Service at American University and a political ecologist and geographer by training. Dr. Ranganathan researches environmental casteism and environmental racism in urban contexts, what she refers to as "environmental unfreedoms." Specifically, she studies how caste and racial histories shape segregated housing and property relations, water and sanitation access, and flood and climate vulnerability. She works on both India and the U.S. She is currently working on a book, The Urbanization of Caste Power: Land, Labor, and Spatial Politics in Bengaluru. The book re-examines Bengaluru through the analytic of caste power, tracing the historical and contemporary production of housing, labor, and flooding and other ecological inequities. It considers how slum, legal, and union activism disrupts injustices perpetuated by caste and class power. She is co-editor of Rethinking Difference in India through Racialization: Caste, Tribe, and Hindu Nationalism in Transnational Perspective (Routledge, 2022). She is also a recipient of an American Council of Learned Societies-Andrew W. Mellon Foundation grant for a book forthcoming with Cornell University Press (2023), Corruption Plots: Stories, Ethics, and Publics of the Late Capitalist City. The collaborative monograph weaves together ethnographic and literary analysis to argue that corruption politics lie at the heart of, rather than being a deviation from, (neo)liberal capitalism and its 21st century authoritarian guises. Not merely a synonym for bribery or illegality, "corruption talk" is an affective framework deployed to make sense of unequal spatial change and elite abuses of power, even as it is used opportunistically by those who are themselves implicated in wrongdoing. Finally, Dr. Ranganathan investigates environmental racism and climate justice in American cities. Her work on abolitionist climate justice in Washington, DC was featured on NPR. Most recently, she is part of a team that was awarded a National Science Foundation grant for RECIPES, a project that promotes equitable and sustainable urban and regional food systems. For an overview of her transnational approach to research and teaching, stream this podcast. Dr. Ranganathan was recognized with the SIS Scholar Teacher of the Year award in 2018. In 2021 and 2022 she won the SIS and university-wide awards for Outstanding Contributions to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. In 2022 she won the AU Morton-Bender Prize for achievements at the associate professor level. Please visit her website to learn more about her research.

Her research is published in EP:D (Society and Space), Environmental Justice, Ethnic and Racial Studies, The Lancet - Global Health, The Annals of the American Association of Geographers, Progress in Human Geography, Environment and Planning: A (Economy and Society), Capitalism Nature Socialism, International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, Urban Geography, and Antipode: A Radical Journal of Geography, among other journals. Her scholarship also appears in public venues such as e-Flux Architecture, Society and Space, and Black Perspectives. She serves on the editorial boards of Antipode, The Annals of the American Association of Geographers, and Environment and Planning: D (Society and Space). Previously, Dr Ranganathan was a post-doctoral fellow in the Department of Geography at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and has had research positions at TERI in New Delhi, ENDA-Tiers Monde in Dakar, and the Asian Development Bank in Manila. At SIS, Dr Ranganathan teaches SISU 250 (Environmental Sustainability and Global Health), SISU 349 (Global Cities, Justice, and the Environment), and SIS 620 (Environmental Justice).


Spring 2022

  • SIS-899 Doctoral Dissertation

Fall 2022

  • SIS-899 Doctoral Dissertation

Partnerships & Affiliations

Scholarly, Creative & Professional Activities

Selected Publications


Selected Journal Publications


Professional Presentations

INVITED KEYNOTES (only recent)


Professional Services

Grants and Sponsored Research

Honors, Awards, and Fellowships

  • 2022. American University Morton-Bender Prize, recognizing "professional achievement since attainment of the rank of associate professor and to facilitate the faculty member's progress towards the rank of full professor"
  • 2021. American University Faculty Award for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
  • 2020. SIS Outstanding Contributions to Promoting Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion  Award
  • 2018. SIS Scholar-Teacher of the Year Award (co-recipient)
  • 2011-2013. Post-Doctoral Fellow, Social Dimensions of Environmental Policy (SDEP), Department of Geography and Beckman Institute, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.
  • 2009-2010. Chancellor’s Dissertation-Year Fellowship in the Humanities and Social Sciences, University of California, Berkeley.
  • 2007-2008. John L. Simpson Memorial Research Fellowship in International and Comparative Studies, University of California, Berkeley.

Research Interests

Environmental justice and urban political ecology in India and the U.S., labour and property studies, critical development studies, Ambedkarite and anticaste theory, Black Marxism, decolonial and postcolonial theory, critical race theory.

AU Experts

Area of Expertise

Environmental racism in the U.S., antiracism, climate justice, environmental justice, segregation, environmental politics in India

Additional Information

Malini Ranganathan is an urban geographer and a scholar of environmental racism, environmental justice, and climate justice. Her research focuses on how the history of segregation and property law shapes environmental inequalities related to water, housing, and climate change vulnerability in India and the U.S. She is the author of several academic journal articles and she is currently working on two books related to urban inequality, environmental justice and real estate politics. Her work appears in media and scholarly outlets such as WAMU, Vox, Black Perspectives, and Society and Space.

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